The Most Potent Weapon in Your Arsenal

Recently a student who was about to graduate and is trying to secure an internship said to me, “I feel like I’m fighting a battle just to be considered for an internship opportunity.”

I thought about that for a moment before I agreed and said, “You would probably be doing yourself a huge favor if you thought about trying to find an internship, a job and maintaining a career as a total war with your resume, portfolio and LORs as your strategic weapons.”

It’s sometimes shocking to me (and most other faculty) that students always underestimate the battlefield that internship and job seekers find themselves in.

After four (or more) years of college, most upperclassmen who are just getting their feet wet only see their current or a few former classmates as their sole competition.

This is a mistake.  You are fighting a battle against every graduate from every school who is trying to find a job in that industry.  This doesn’t mean 100′s of other enemies, that means 1000′s of other foes who would, without a second thought, step on your neck to get that same opportunity.

I hear often students trade experiences and stories in classes about their hopes and desire to work at this “amazing agency” or that “incredible magazine.”  They often use statements like (and I kid you not, I have heard this at least a dozen times): “I will literally DIE if I don’t get in there.”

Aside from the all-too-common and ear drum-shattering poor use of “literally,” the odds are very unlikely that anyone will land at their first choice for anything in life. Getting everything you want rarely happens, but that truth is neither here nor there.  We’re here to talk about the one key weapon you can use today.

Importantly, most students or recent graduates fail to see they have one more formidable weapon in their proverbial quiver.  I blame their parents completely for this failure.

This device is note honed in school. In fact, it’s rarely ever mentioned and it requires some personal initiative.

It might even cost you $20 and will certainly take about 20 minutes.

It also needs to be well timed and very sincere.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A good pen (blue or black).
  • Nice stationary (please have some class and splurge on100% cotton bond).
  • A matching envelope to go with the stationary (notice I’m not saying the word “paper”).
  • A first-class USPS stamp.

After you have had a chance to meet with a potential employer about an internship or job opportunity, go home and sit down and hand-write a thank you note.

I don’t care if you use printing, italics or cursive, but do try and have legible penmanship.

Do not dot the “i”s with little hearts, either.  That’s just weird.

Thank that individual or those individuals for their time. If there was more than one person meeting with you that day, plan to write a unique and individual note to all of them.

Let them know how much you appreciated the chance to learn more about the organization and the opportunity.  Point out why you think this might be a great match for you.  You might consider raising a conversation point that was discussed during the meeting.  Reiterate that you appreciate their time.  End the note with a sentence that includes how much you look forward to personally meeting with them again in the near future.

You might think that everyone is already doing this (I just SMSed my note today!) so why should you?  Because contrary to what you think, a handwritten thank-you note isexceptionally rare; nobody does this – especially GenY.

Everyone has a resume, which captures professional experiences.  Most people have a portfolio of work samples.  Many people will have several LORs to improve their credibility.

But when I asked a colleague at a very large advertising firm how often he gets a personal handwritten thank you note from interviewees he said, “None this year and two (2) last year.”

Then I asked him how many people had their firm interviewed for positions in the last fiscal year and he said, “Well, I’d guess about 45.”

Set yourself apart from your competitors enemies in the job-search battlefield.  Take the time to hand-write a thank you note.  Do not use email.  Do not use SMS. Accept no substitutes.

Remember, finding a job or internship in this economy is a total war, not a competition.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s